Friday, March 28, 2008

Fall Creek Falls - Lower Loop Trail

Trail.........................Miles.............Rating............Outcasts Total: 280.5 Miles
Lower Loop Trail.......12 Miles.......Easy / Difficult

Wow, what wonderful weather for hiking. Troy, Marco, and I hit the trail after a six week break. We were needing the outdoors pretty bad. We got on the trail at 11:00am and headed up the east side of the gulf. As I mentioned earlier Troy has attempted this trip twice and due to bad planning and drought conditions, has yet to make it through the gulf.

You start at the trail head and then hike a portion of the paw paw trail to the overnight loop. We planned on making it to campsite #2 for the night. This would get us halfway around the loop and getting the gulf over the first day.

When we signed in the ranger notified us that the boy scouts were staying at our campsite. Well, this is nothing new to us. There were three good water sources before we hit Pine Creek which the ranger said that we would have to carry water from there up to the campsite. This is always the case as well. On the highest climb we like to add water and a lot of it.

We stopped at campsite one for lunch, which is next to a nice creek. From there we headed into the gulf which is a 700 foot drop. Here the flowers were beautiful and plentiful. We stopped at the river for a rest and to gather our extra water. After we built up our strength we headed up to the campsite. The climb was very strenuous and I would rate it difficult to the average hiker and us. The West side is alot steeper than the East if you are making plans to hike. Of course when you reach the top you will hear the sounds of running water as a stream runs near the trail. They didn't rub it in by making us walk through it. We couldn't see the stream but you could hear that it was running well.

Just past the rim of the gulf is the campsite. You can hear boy scouts as soon as you can get away from the sound of water. We came into camp at 3:50pm and the scout leader said that we could share a site with them. We found a site down the road a piece. The scouts had come in the opposite direction and after our discription of the gulf he wasn't sure if they were ready.

They have a men and women bath house next to each other with a tree laid down across the doors. There is a separate out house nearby. If you walk down the service road a short distance there is another site and that is where we stayed.

We were not used to the sun staying up so late. We had plenty of camp time to bond. Marco entertained us once again with kicking over his hot chocolate and stepping in the dogs water dish. We enjoyed the campfire until 10:00pm and called it a night.

I had gotten up Saturday morning completely clogged up and thought it was allergies. I had taken some meds but had felt achy all day as we hiked. Well, I woke up in the middle of the night freezing. I pulled up the old bag and fell back to sleep. I woke up later burning up. Then I woke up and headed straight for the nearest tree. I have always carried diarrhea medicine and now it was going to pay off. A few trips later and I was hoping it was going to kick in soon. Well the next time I woke up my stomach was rolling. I sat up and ran for the open running from both ends. Well, for all of those LIGHTWEIGHT backpackers that count the sheets of toilet paper. THIS WHY YOU TAKE A WHOLE ROLL! IT DOESN'T WEIGHT THAT MUCH!

Troy was going to sleep in this morning, but was up by this time because his dog was not interested in sleeping in. This is vacation! I sat with him as he started the fire and then I headed back to bed. Troy woke me up to check on me. He had already broken camp and Marco was working on his. Let's start the day. We got on the trail at 8:30am.

The trail on this side of the gulf has all of the water falls and swinging bridges. The trail goes by the nature center and then you follow the paw paw trail back to the trail head. Beautiful sites and as we got near the nature center we started to see plenty of people. It was a great day for everyone to be out. We got back to the car at 12:50.

Marco drove me home so I got some rest on the way home. I called my wife and she notified me that my grandchildren had not been suffering from the shots they got from the doctor. They had stayed with us Friday night because of that. My daughter was now sick as well as my grandson. So as the boy scouts say "Always be prepared!


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fall Creek Falls Lower Loop

We had to cancel today's hike to Fall Creek Falls Lower Loop due to the rain deciding to stay around all day and in the morning as well. Troy and I were the only ones that were going to make it due to everyone else being busy. It is disheartening because we really like to get out and were really looking forward to this trip. I have not been on this trail, but Troy had started it one time before with his brother and had to cancel because of lack of water. We will push this hike back to the next planned weekend.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Troy's Pack


slumber jack guide sleeping bag 2.3
kelty light year 2.0
walmart foam pad 0.12
snow peak solo cook set 0.6
walmart stove/ fuel/ spork/ lighter ect 1.0
ULA Catalyst 48
go lite rain poncho/ shelter 0.8
walmart sleeping cloths: long underwear/ hat/ socks 0.14
walmart camp shoes 0.6
walmart first aid kit 0.12
walmart head lamp 0.4
walmart backup head lamp 0.3
walmart trek poles 1.6
walmart rain cloths lite weight/ extra cloths 1.0
skeeter beeter hammock 20
warbonnet superfly tarp 19

all weights are approx.  

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Land Between the Lakes, South end

Trail...............,,....Miles..........Rating................Outcasts Total: 268.5
North/South Trail...29.7.........Easy
Day One..............1.5
Day Two.............12
Day Three...........11.2
Day Four.............5

Marco, Troy, and Craig made this trip. We got off work Wednesday morning. I had a class in Nashville and wouldn't be able to make it to the Park before 8:00pm. Troy and Marco headed out that afternoon and set up camp about a half mile down the trail from the Golden Pond visitor center. Marco had taken my hammock and tarp and set them up for me as well. I called them when I got in the area and they met me at the car. We took Troy's car down and left it at the South visitor station then took my truck back up North. If you ever drive down the Trace at night, the entire length is covered with deer. Be careful as someone had hit one this night.

The original plan was to have Marco stay with the fire and Troy and I would move cars. Marco wasn't going with that. He wasn't going to be left in camp by himself for a couple of hours. We hiked in, got the fire started, and settled down for the evening. This was suppose to be the warmest of the nights on the trail.

We got on the trail Thursday morning at 8am. The weather was cool so no shorts or tee shirts today. Most of the North/South trail on the southern end is old road bed. They had gotten a lot of rain recently so water and mud was plentiful. Just out of camp was our first water crossing. We had joked back and forth about the weather and one of the things that we figured out was that the weathermen watch this blog. When we are hiking they just throw up their hands and give up. Can't predict the weather when we are on the trail. We pack for everything and got to use it.

We made it to North of the Walker Line trail where the trace meets the trail at lunch time. About 2:30pm we passed the Cedar Pond area. I couldn't remember there being any water after the trail crosses the Trace so we stopped at the last water source shown on the map. Whenever you hike the Land Between the Lakes, make sure you take two maps. You want the Hike & Bike Trail Map and the USDA Public Access Roads and Hunt Area map. Between the two you can figure out what's going on and where you are located. Well anyway, Marco was having some feet problems and we told him to let us know when he had enough and we would stop for camp. He was now carrying about six liters, I was carrying about seven, and Troy had a gallon jug plus. Well we crossed the trace and stopped just before the wind damaged section of the trail. Marco said keep going. We went through the wind damage and Marco said keep going. We finally made camp at the hill before the Prospector's place which had a spring. We had carried our water about three miles.

Tonight the wood was drier so the fire got going alot better. Marco ate and went to bed. Troy and I stayed up telling lies for most the night. Some time early in the morning we got a little sleet.

Got on the trail Friday morning at 9am. We had a lot of laughs as we passed the Prospector's Place and spring. We decided for now on we will send a scout out when we stop to make camp. There is always water just past where we set up at. We stopped at road 211 and Marco wanted to do a group shot. He set up the camera and it flashed. When he got back to the camera to check the picture he said that he wasn't in the picture. There was just a space were he was. Then it dawned on him that the picture was gone and it was showing Troy and I waiting there for him. We might of had to laugh for a while on that one. The last water crossing on the South end of the North/South trial was just past the road.

We stopped at Iron Mountain Camp for lunch. There is a ranger building and fire tower here with a water hydrant which they advertise on a sign. It just happen not to be turned on today. It started to sleet so we sat in the shelter for lunch. Their shelters are half a culvert with plywood on the back and gravel on the ground. This is where Troy tested the half size zip lock bag to cook in. Not good! After he poured his hot water in the bag he zipped the lock and all of his food went out the end of the bag. Note to everyone, when you do zip lock cooking, make sure you have a freezer bag.

Since the sleet didn't let up I checked the radar and it showed snow was coming and a major storm at the bottom. I also received a text from Jason saying they were expecting around six inches. Troy made the suggestion of staying at the shelter until the storm came through. I told Troy, the major storm was two states away. Troy said there was no way a storm could make it to us when it was two states away was there? I told him how real men do it and off we went.

We had to put on poncho's before we got to Brier Rose Branch Spring where we filled up with water. The sleet was heavier and soon the snow began. We pushed on until we were about five miles from the car and it was 3:30pm. We set up camp in a pine thicket and quickly collected fire wood while we could still see it. By the time we got the fire going well the snow was just soaking us. We gave up and went under tarp. It was a wet sticky snow which we had to hit the side of our tarps to get it to fall off. This became a ritual that lasted all night long. We cooked our dinners and yelled back and forth to each other. There was phone service here and everyone got told how stupid we were. Nothing that we haven't heard before.

That night I got the system down with every time I rolled over, I would reach up and bang my tarp. By morning the snow off my tarp reached almost to just even with my hammock on the ground. We got a good six inches of snow. Troy came over and asked what my plan was. He suggested just pack up and go. I said we should make a fire and get dried up some and eat. Everything that Troy had was soaked. I guess the mixture of snow on top, not enough ventilation, and wet clothes already added up to no good in his tent. We ate, packed up, and hit the trail by 9am.

It was beautiful hiking in the snow. A little more work and a few hidden under snow lakes to add to the challenge. The guys put me out front as the fall guy. I had one puddle that I stepped into that I went to looking for my floatation device. We saw lots of tracks in the snow of various critters and saw deer, squirrel, and turkeys.

After we hit the Bear Creek Loop and about a mile from the visitor station we came along a hiker that looked like he just stepped out of the hiker magazine. He was sporting name brand clothes, boots, and backpack. He had GPS, Cell phone, and number of gadgets that I am not familiar with. He stopped at the side of the trail and waited for us. We sized him up as a military man from Fort Hood. When we met I asked about him enjoying his snow hike. He said that he hasn't had the opportunity to hike in the snow and wanted to check it out. He asked if we were heading back in and I told him that we had been out for a few days and yes were heading to the car. A big surprised look came over his face as he asked again had we been out all night in the snow. Yes, we got three days of hiking in are you camping tonight? No, I'm just out for a five mile day hike. Oh, OK. We left him filling like the sissy he was.

When we got to the car it was buried in the snow. The only other car was one with Ft. Hood plates on it. We went to the visitor station which had a sign in the window stating that they would be closed Saturday due to the weather. That's what happens in the South when someone mentions snow. The Outcasts just go hiking.

This was Marco's first snow hike. He has been waiting since he heard about our snow hikes last year. This was also the groups first multi-state hike and we have completed the North/South trail. Troy says that we still have to do the whole trail in one hike. Always thinking ahead.